It’s a wonderful life – in Crete

Ex-pat: Dave Harrison with his animals in Greece
Ex-pat: Dave Harrison with his animals in Greece

In the first of a new series following the lives of ex-pat Chorley and Leyland Guardian readers, KAY TAYLOR talks to a man who moved to the Greek island of Crete on doctor’s orders

When Dave Harrison visited his doctor in Leyland’s Moss Side six years ago, he was issued with a somewhat unusual prescription – some sun.

He was suffering with diabetes, which had gradually been getting worse despite him taking medication.

So when the words ‘retire and move abroad’ came out of the doctor’s mouth, the grandad-of-four didn’t have to think twice.

Now, speaking from his 2,000sq metre smallholding plot in idyllic Crete, Dave says it’s the best move he ever made. “There’s no going back for me,” he says.

“I’m happy here. I grow fruit, olives, and vegetables, and I have nine pets: seven cats and two dogs.

“I enjoy art, gardening and swimming in our pool, and I love the sun and hot weather.”

It’s miles away from his life in Leyland, where he worked in a number of jobs including for Leyland Motors, as a driving instructor, as a retained firefighter and martial arts instructor.

Dave, now 72, grew up in Westwood Road with his grandfather, James Edward Nixon, before the family moved out of the area when he was a toddler.

He came back to Leyland after getting married when he was 21, and lived in Woodlands Drive as he worked at BTR and then Leyland Motors, in the engineers department.

Dave has fond memories of the Leyland festivals and the famous ‘pram races’ which would take place through the town. “I entered every year,” he remembers. “I won with a fellow retained firefighter once.”

Speaking about his work for Leyland Motors, he adds: “I did 10 years on the shop floor and 11 years on staff, until I was made redundant.

“After that, I set up Dave Harrison School of Motoring, specialising in disabled tuition in both manual and automatic cars, and as a teacher of driving instructors.

“I also worked for the Lancashire Driver Improvement Courses, for people who had committed driving offences.”

Dad-of-four Dave, who has since divorced, even featured in the Guardian’s sister newspaper, the Lancashire Evening Post, for his work teaching disabled people to drive – this time while he lived in Crawford Avenue.

He was also pictured in the papers for his favourite hobby at the time, karate, and he ran Leyland Motors Karate Club.

He gained a black belt and went on to teach classes, as well as working as an international referee and holding female self- defence classes at night school.

Dave, who has two grandchildren living in Leyland, also lived in Dunkirk Lane and Langton Close, before moving to Kolimbari Chania in Crete with his partner when he was 66.

With no interest in returning to his roots, Dave now relies on his friends and family visiting him in Greece, and says they love the experience.

“The Cretan people are very hospitable,” he says. “And although mainland Greece is suffering, the economic crisis is generally not affecting us here.”

It seems that emigrating runs in the family too, with Dave’s son Shaun working as a master mechanic in Ohio, America.

Two of Dave’s grandchildren live in the USA, but two are in Leyland with their mum Beth, who is a sports teacher at Balshaw’s High School.

His eldest son Mark works for the NHS in South Ribble, while his other son Blake works at Leyprint in Leyland.

Looking back at his decision to leave his hometown, Dave’s glad he listened to his doctor’s orders.

“It was excellent advice from the Moss Side health centre.”

- Do you have an ex-pat story? Contact kay.taylor@lep.co.uk